PCT Day 123, Whitewater River to Tamarack Road (Palm Springs), 11 miles

If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought. – Peace Pilgrim

I know I repeat myself, but it’s cold. The water bottles are chunky and, unfortunately, I left the Sawyer Squeeze outside Big Greenie and it freezes solid, no flow at all. My emergency purifying pills to the rescue! I squat at the fast moving river, and set up the operation of one tab, two electrolyte fizzies, chased with Whitewater River water and lots of prayers. Up ahead is all dry and exposed and sunshine and uphill. The wind farm six miles ahead apparently has its office in a pre-fab building on trail and offers water and (maybe) ice cream to hikers. As always, it can’t be counted on, so four liters are loaded on our backs and we get started.

Did I mention we see cougar tracks in the sand passing through our cowgirl sight? They’re so yesterday and our star-filled night is undisturbed except for one chopper and his search light. We don’t have far to go, so wait for sun before crossing the river on well-placed logs. Jumping cholla cactus line the path, and thorn bushes with long, clingy tendrils that snap after you unhook them, right into your hiking partner’s face. No blood, just a little wake up slap.

It’s up a long way to a new canyon, but we talk, continuing to unwind the clingy tendrils of the recent past so I can move confidently into my future. Our talking helps me bring the trail to a satisfying close so I can go home feeling full. Obviously I’ll miss this – my freedom, the views, being in nature, doing what I love so much – but I’m hoping it energizes me rather than leave me longing for more or feeling like I’ve left something unfinished.

The other benefit is talking helps me fly up the hill. I breath normally as we sort things out, hit the crest and see a row of windmills ahead. It’s a quiet day without a single one working, but as we come down towards the office, a worker in a truck waves and motions us to come inside. Friends, it’s flush toilets, a soap dispenser, drinking water by the case and, maybe they’re all out of ice cream, but it’s Halloween today and the break room is at the ready for a couple of hiker/trick-or-treaters.

We hang out with two workers, gobbling too much chocolate, though Ted eats an apple for balance, and not once do they make us feel we’re overstaying our welcome. I can imagine the real value to PCT hikers is sitting here in air conditioning when it’s 110 degrees out, but for us, it’s a lovely break with locals before the few miles to the highway. A new plant reaches into the trail at eye-level with bouncy Sideshow Bob branches. All of the scrubby plants send their flowers up on stilty stems, dried now into antennae. We pass a hiker named ‘Smiles’ finishing one last section, out of order, but will end the thru-hike for her. She’s delighted knowing treats await her ahead.

Interstate 10 comes into view as we cross the Morongo Nation reservation, trailers with solar panels parked at the very edge above more permanent homes looking towards massive San Jacinto peak. Dirt bikers stir up the dust and one pops a wheelie. Four of them in some serious gear meet us at the road, friendly as can be offering advice on where to go from here – even offering a ride on the back of the bike to the casino.

Instead, Ted plugs in our location in his uber app and it’s only a few minutes before Denise shows up to pick up these two dirty and tired hikers. The plan is to head to a town called Banning, but when she mentions she lives in Palm Springs and it’s equidistant in the opposite direction, Ted says, “We’ll go to Palm Springs!”

And, boy, am I glad we landed here for a rest. Downtown is gearing up for Halloween just as we arrive and manage to find a cheap motel within walking distance of the center of activity. After the chores are done, the clothes and body washed and first beer drunk, we head out. What a fantastic way to end this day with everybody out, willing to vogue for my camera.

I’m tired and need another day to rest my legs and fuel my body. Ted is teaching himself how to navigate the map app and plan the coming days, which include a 7,000 foot climb over 19 1/2 miles between water sources. But tonight, I’m a tourist in flip flops, the blissful hiker getting her much deserved beauty rest.

 

 

Reader Comments

  1. What great days you are having as you hike to the end with a friend! What great and interesting photos of this part of the trail!

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